Pope John Paul II to the Legion of Mary

Part of an address delivered by the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, to a group of Italian legionaries on 30th October 1982.

My welcome is addressed to each and every one of you. It is reason for joy for me to see you in this hall in such great numbers from various regions of Italy, more so in that you are only a small part of that apostolic movement, that in the span of sixty years has rapidly spread in the world and today, in two years from the death of its founder, Frank Duff, is present in so many dioceses in the universal Church.

My predecessors, beginning with Pius XI, have addressed words of appreciation to the Legion of Mary, and I myself on 10 May 1979, when receiving one of your first delegations, recalled with great pleasure the occasions I had previously had to come in contact with the Legion, in Paris, Belgium and Poland, and then, as Bishop of Rome, in the course of my pastoral visits to the parishes of the city.

Vexillum Legionis Today, therefore, as I receive in audience the Italian pilgrimage of your movement, I would like to emphasize those aspects which constitute the substance of your spirituality and your modus essendi within the Church.

Vocation to be a leaven

You are a movement of lay people who propose to make faith the aspiration of your life up to the achievement of personal sanctity. It is without doubt a lofty and difficult ideal. But today the Church, through the Council, calls all Christians of the Catholic laity to this ideal, inviting them to share in the kingly priesthood of Christ with the witness of a holy life, with mortification and charitable works; to be in the world, with the splendor of faith, hope and charity, what the soul is in the body (Lumen Gentium 10,38).

Your proper vocation as lay people, that is the vocation to be a leaven in the People of God, a Christian inspiration in the modern world, and to bring the priest to the people, is eminently ecclesial. The same Second Vatican Council exhorts all the laity to accept with ready generosity the call to be united ever more intimately to the Lord and, considering as one's own everything that is his, to share in the same salvific mission of the Church, to be its living instruments, above all where, because of particular conditions of modern society - a constant increase in population, a reduction in the numbers of priests, the appearance of new problems, the autonomy of many sectors of human life - it could be more difficult for the Church to be present and active (ibid. 33).

The area of the lay apostolate today is extraordinarily enlarged. And so the commitment of your typical vocation becomes more impelling, stimulating, live and relevant. The vitality of the Christian is the sign of the vitality of the Church. And the commitment of you legionaries becomes more urgent, considering on the one hand the needs of the Italian society and of the nations of ancient Christian tradition, and on the other hand the shining examples which have gone before you in your own movement. To give just some names: Edel Quinn, with her activity in Black Africa; Alfonso Lambe in the most emarginated areas of Latin America; and then the thousands of legionaries killed in Asia or ending up in work camps.

With the spirit and solicitude of Mary

Yours is an eminently Marian spirituality, not only because the Legion glories in carrying Mary's name as its unfurled banner, but above all because it bases its method of spirituality and apostolate on the dynamic principle of union with Mary, on the truth of the intimate participation of the Virgin Mary in the plan of salvation.

In other words, you intend to render your service to every person, who is the image of Christ, with the spirit and the solicitude of Mary.

If our one and only Mediator is the man Jesus Christ, as the Council states, "Mary's motherly role towards men in no way dims or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ: on the contrary, it demonstrates it efficacy" (Lumin Gentium 60). So the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Perpetual Help, Mediatrix, Mother of the Church.

For its birth and growth, apostolic work looks to her who gave birth to Christ, conceived by the Holy Spirit. Where the Mother is, there too is the Son. When one moves away from the Mother, sooner or later he ends up keeping distant from the Son as well. It is no wonder that today, in various sectors of secularized society, we note a widespread crisis of faith in God, preceded by a drop in devotion to the Virgin Mother.

Your Legion forms a part of those movements that feel personally committed to the spread or the birth of that faith through the spread or the revival of devotion to Mary. It therefore will always be able to do its utmost that, through love for the Mother, the Son, Who is the way, the truth and the life of every person, will be more known and loved.

In this perspective of faith and love I impart the Apostolic Blessing to you from my heart.



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